Joel Hayward's Poetry

Islamic poetry in English

 Unfathomable Depths


To take the life of any Innocent

– so treasured by You –

Is to rob the breath of all who live

But Your mercy is such


Ya Rahman

Ya Rahim


That if he had asked You




You would even have absolved

And welcomed

To You

That one who

Choked six million worlds


If he had asked









Life is Such


I slept smiling

And you were with me

In my thoughts

When I should have

Had none


You brought morning

Through gaps between

My curtains and

Appeared – wondrous –

In my first flickers

Of light


You watched me all day

And when I felt your

Gaze I wandered

For a few long



And wondered how

You saw anything

When I have

Seen nothing

Worth much

At all


You touched me

Deeply with

Gentle words

That I repeated

During my solitary



When your patience

With my failings

And your doting


Eased the pain

Of regrets


My day

Has been yours

And as I wait

For darkness I

See you somewhere

And think of








The Fifth That Day


He was the fifth

On the seventh

Of the seventh


I never liked him

But those four saw

Something I did not


They hadn’t known

Him for that long

Not from boyhood


He sure had it

The gift of the gab

My dad would say


He told stories

That gave them

Such dreams


Let’s do something!

Be someone! We

Can! We really should!


They planned a trip

To the city and

Asked him to come


He liked July

He liked the city

He liked them too


He grinned and chatted

As they descended the



They hung by hand

Straps squeezed in

The heat with strangers


He had helped them

To pack and then to

Carry their bags


He said goodbye

To three and went

Off to find the other


He joined that one

The youngest

Elsewhere upstairs


He told him too

I’ll see you later

And he meant it


Such good friends

They had



All those hours

In the kitchen

Making mess


Those quiet moments

Of mateship

Now gone


Making friends

Is never easy

For most


Yet he seemed

To have no



That fifth on

The seventh

Of the seventh


With the four

Gone he’s back

To his old tricks


He’s made

New mates



Have you heard

Who? I



But Allah has


Ready for them


Ideal for that

Whispering liar

Made from a flame


And any new friends

Who might take

Him dead seriously






Muslim Warrior


With cut-and paste ahadith that you’ve clearly hurled

As grenades in previous battles (it seems you won one

And enjoyed its sweetness) you waged war from the bunker of

Soft and safe self-righteousness plonked in front of a screen

In some estate in Scotland to prove that Jihad is Qital

And must be waged against those who exploit us ― your enemies

Include our state that has let you swell and puff and

Enjoy such combat ― and your soldierly aggression was such

That I couldn’t help wondering why you have never taken

That anger and valour over to where you can risk your skin

Rather than trying to earn martyrdom with such inflamed courage

By defeating me on Facebook







Mortal Dread


An email flew from a

Graceless yesterday

Lodging deep

And he groaned

Falling forward

Staring at a portent


He pulled the arrow’s shaft

And a trickle of pain

Ran down his exposed breast

But he pressed

His palm and prayed


Oh Allah what have I done?

Have I not paid



You have paid a full price

And justice asks

For nothing now


He read and tears fell

Upon his keyboard

And he thanked

The one who shot for

Aiming so well


A dove flew from his fingers

Returning with

Noah’s sign and

He sighed

Giving thanks

And embraced truth







We Talk


It kills me that you

Say I was born into sin

When my sister

Died at birth


It kills me that you

Say the unborn

And everliving

Died for three days


It tears me in two

When you count

Some One as



I’m gutted that

You say I

Have lost

My soul


Yet I take heart

That the Almighty

Sees what beats

Within me


And I can’t begin to

Tell you of my

Wonder that He is

Beyond description







Love as I Write


How is it that I

Cannot bear the thought

Of living without my

Heart’s great love

Although I have never seen

Your smile or held your hand

Heard the softness of your words

Smelled your subtle fragrance

Or felt your fingers reassure

My hair like mum once did?


How is that you love me

And tenderly reach to hug

Me when I need it though I

Bring shame so often and

You hear my worst and see

Even those things I would

Hide if I could but I can’t and

You know that sometimes

My thoughts wander

Where they shouldn’t?


What should I tell them

When they ask why

I’m smiling to myself

And should I let them in

On the secret that I’m

Never alone and that within

The greying of shrinking time

My heart beats like a fifth-

Former with a note passed

From a dreamed sweetheart?


Why would I keep

You to myself when I know

That you wrote that note

In surahs for all who need

What they don’t know is

Beyond a father’s wisdom

A motherly embrace

A warm drink in dark winter

A cool swim in summer

And an offer of foreverness?







Noodles in Jakarta


You walked out on your husband because

Allah wanted you to be happier


You chased some illusion of romance

That He truly had in mind for you


You left the son you adopted so

That Allah would make you a real mum


You didn’t have to search that hard

Because He would bring you a job


And if He didn’t it was because He

Had a new husband with money waiting




Paradise ― said our Prophet

― is at the feet of mothers


And you now live alone in a single room

That smells of instant noodles







For Her in That Room


Oh Allah


Let those stumbled

Steps of foolishness

Lead to a path

Paved in better



I did not pray for those

Things she wanted


How could I?


But I do now


Send her someone


If that’s Your will




Oh Allah, if her eyes will enlarge

On her world that has shrunk

And her lips will caress Your names


Won’t you wrap her in soft compassion?







Through Time


A joy still spreads in frog-coloured greenness from a parched

Slab of a camel desert


Springs within souls rise like Zamzam’s laughter beneath the ardent

Stare of an encroaching sun in a cloudless unflawed stripe


The clearest voice once sang as a happy tenor and hummed inside a

Cave too small for echoes


Words of resonant depth joined and forever swell a chorus of

Worship sung by those who remain close when darkness comes


Prayers grin at gravity as they skip up spiralling staircases to their

Owner who has never misplaced or overlooked a single sigh


He smiles at all green croaking devotions and invites the

Ones who glimmer in His eyes to journey up if they will







Qābīl and Hābīl


Sons of the same great pawing lion

Who yawned contentedly and watched

You joy in bringing the hint of meaning

To a mother’s Mona Lisa smile


You wrestled and grew strong like

Mongols on the hard steppes

And you laughed when you fell

Upon each other in young-muscled

Slips of twisting balance


When the whisperer crouched close

And said who was strongest it was a lie

Borrowed from lofty circling vultures

And you should not have looked

At each other in that way


Will jealousy fill your mind, brother

Hamas, with pulsing thoughts of his

Quiet nature so admired? Calm your soul

And look! He has eyes just like yours


Will feelings of weakness make your

Chest tight and your knuckles white,

Dear Fatah? Strengthen your spirit, look

In the mirror and quietly call, “Akhoya”


Return to your wrestling and press

Your wet hair together in tight squeezes

Of brotherhood and grow stronger

In love


And offer that up as a single offering

With the Ummah’s prayers that it will

Reach and please the One who

Called that tawny lion Ibrahim His friend


Oh champion of the sad and hurt we beseech

You to accept their fragrantly full salver

And to strengthen their memories of youth

Whenever the slitherer slips out greenish words


History can be written on different scrolls and

That crying blow need not fall if they will make pride

A sworn foe and return to their flocks and fields

With something for their mother’s lips







Jihad al-Nafs


I confront my antagonist and

Demand with a poke what Allah wants:


My release from his clutch


He has pursued me

Plagued and poisoned me


Lifted me then cast me



I have turned from him

Fled and he has followed


His hot breath on my neck drove me

Like a wrathful wind in a whipping sail


I need him gone and

My soul unbound


For calm to flatten the sea


To hold my enslaver’s familiar stare

And shake myself free


I must die to me so that I can live

And you can smile


I burn my desires upon a pyre

And pour Allah’s will over the dying cinders









You are a shepherd


A lamb




A fisherman


Loaves and fishes


The salt of the earth


You are an ark


A dove returning


An olive branch


A rainbow


Stained glass windows


The chiming of bells


The good news


            You are


            Muhammadur Rasulullah


            Sallallahu alayhi wasallam







Capturing Beauty


Wizened and white

He ached

As he always did

To paint the glory

Of radiant Allah

Subhanahu waTa’ala

With a palette

Of dazzling colours


His thin fingers

Held a thinner brush

And faded yellowing eyes

Delighted in the brightness

Of the harvest colours

Already toothpaste-

Squeezed onto his

Waiting mixing board


And he wondered

What should emerge

This time

From his canvas as

An offering to the one

Who gave him a steady

Hand now trembling

And a keen eye


After having captured

Creation as a master

For forty years

He thought again

As he always did

Of what beauty

Might exceed what

He’d ever seen


But he found nothing

Again in his mind’s

Eye more precious

Than the memory

Of a melting red sunset

When he once strolled

With sandy feet

In love and with

A firm hand wrapped

Around his long-dead



And he smiled and

Gave thanks to the one

Who had created

Far greater suns than

That one and scattered

Them as pebbles

Through the widening

Universe with a simple

Clear thought


And he returned his brush

Undipped to the jar

That had always

Welcomed it home and

Ran fingertips lovingly

Over an empty canvas

That danced with joy

When he spoke with

A quiver, "Oh Allah"


"What could I paint

With my hands

That could equal

Those words?"


And he sat

On a cane chair

With creaks

Bowed his neck and

Painted perfection

With thanks for his

Life and his wife’s

With a rainbow of

Words ― " La ilaha

Illallah Muhammadur

Rasulullah" ―

That flowed from

Scarcely open

Lips while he

Looked at his bare canvas

And saw God’s beauty

In its emptiness






It’s Monday Tomorrow


A pigeon came as grace from God at six

And walked rainwet on my windowsill. Did he

Also bring a mild rebuke? One orangey eye

Then the other warned me that last week

Must not become this week.


Jinns of smokeless fire had pulled down

Around us such a thunderfilled cloud

That summer shivered within its darkness

And we became colder. We bickered. Want

That shadow gone enough and it will be,

The ringnecked and orange promised.


They had whispered to the worst aspects within

Us which proved vulnerable to the stings of

Pridewounding rumours. Recognise their voices,

He said, which are not your own, and ignore them.

They did their jobs by convincing you both that you

Are not very good at doing yours.







From So Far Away


Who is it that speaks from time to time

Hesitantly and with such long pauses

On the phone some Sundays?


I recognise the cough


Sixty years of twenty a day have

Placed a grim sign of the future

Within a throat beneath a jaw

That sags in last year’s photo


The voice reminds me of a memory


Forty years of quick words

Without hesitation flowing from

A bright untaught mind that should

Have thought and given more


Who has stolen my father

And replaced him with a strangely

Slow old man who seems to know me?


The stillness on the phone disturbs me


A childhood of outbursts and shaking

Emotion sometimes aimed my way

Is fading fast in a mind confused by

Time and this imposter’s blandness


His words aren’t familiar


The real McCoy wouldn’t risk the

Words “I love you” – at least not on me –

As he once did on a boy ready for sleep

Beneath an orange candlewick bedspread


Such shrinkage really frightens me


A room full of evident vigour that

Sometimes whipped us as a tempest

Now feels like a shoe-box

Of trapped air


Who will give me the courage to ask

That deflated and tired voice if he

Knows that I have always forgiven him?


Oh Allah I ask for a braver heart

To push from my lips my three best words

To that truly beloved ancient stranger

Who still calls me sometimes on a Sunday